Metro CEO Art Leahy testified to U.S. Senate committee on importance of TIFIA program to the agency

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Metro EPW Testimony 072413

Metro CEO Art Leahy today testified in Washington D.C. in front of the U.S. Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee; his testimony is above.

The topic was an important one for the agency: the expanded TIFIA loan program approved by Congress in last year’s multi-year transportation spending bill. The program allows transit agencies such as Metro to have access to low-interest loans to help build big projects. As Leahy states, Metro plans to seek up to $3.5 billion in these type of loans to build road and transit projects, the reason it’s important for Congress to keep the program going in future years.

You can also watch the committee meeting online; Leahy’s testimony begins at the one hour, 35 minute mark.

Here is the update to Metro staff from Leahy:

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer Praises Metro at Senate EPW Hearing on TIFIA Program

Today, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, praised our agency’s efforts with respect to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program at a hearing entitled “Oversight Hearing on Implementation of MAP-21’s TIFIA Program Enhancements.”

I was honored to testify at the hearing and convey to Chairman Boxer, Ranking member David Vitter (R-LA) and members of the committee that TIFIA helps leverage local transportation dollars to build highway and transit projects that are designed to enhance mobility and the quality of life for all Americans. With respect to Los Angeles County, I cited the TIFIA loan we recently executed for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project and the two TIFIA loans we are currently negotiating with the U.S. Department of Transportation for the Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension transit projects. I also emphasized the favorable job creation impact these projects will have in Los Angeles County and nationally.

It was an honor to testify at the same hearing where newly confirmed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx offered his testimony in support of the TIFIA program. Please find here a link to the testimony I offered on behalf of our agency, as well as links to the testimony offered by other panelists, opening statements offered by Chairman Boxer and Ranking member Vitter, and an archived webcast of the hearing.

We are deeply appreciative of all the work Senator Boxer, as Chairman of the EPW Committee, has done to advance our America Fast Forward initiative. Specifically, the innovative finance portion of MAP-21, which Senator Boxer authored, is entitled America Fast Forward and includes a nearly ten-fold increase in funding authorized for the TIFIA program.

Congress considers transportation bill; New Starts money for Metro projects at stake

This update from Metro's government relations staff neatly summarizes the current state of Congress:

U.S. Senate Votes to Clear Way for Consideration of Transportation Spending Bill

Today, the U.S. Senate voted, by a margin of 73 to 26, to invoke cloture on S. 1243, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill for Fiscal Year 2014. The cloture vote clears the path for the bill to be considered by the full Senate. The Senate’s transportation bill, consistent with President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, would fully fund the New Starts program. This funding would permit the Federal Transit Administration to fully fund our agency’s two New Starts projects (Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector). As currently drafted, the House transportation spending bill would offer no federal funding for these same projects. The Senate bill would also, if adopted, provide $550 million for the popular TIGER grant program, while the House transportation bill would eliminate funding for the TIGER program. Our government relations staff will continue to monitor the Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations process to ensure that our Board-approved priorities are advanced.

 


Metro releases latest report with preliminary data on ExpressLanes’ performance on 10 and 110 freeways

ExpressLanes Performance Update-Prelim Report, July 2013

The Metro ExpressLanes pilot project publicly released its second performance report Monday morning, offering a statistical look at how the project is faring on the 10 and 110 freeways. This is a follow-up to the first report, released in March.

I’ll offer the same caveat we did in March: Metro and Caltrans officials stress that the data is preliminary and subject to change. The U.S. Department of Transportation has hired the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit research firm, to conduct a full and thorough evaluation of the ExpressLanes and their overall effectiveness after they’ve been opened at least one year.

That independent evaluation won’t be issued until mid-2014. In the meantime, Metro will be releasing preliminary performance reports such as the one below in order to provide everyone a general idea of how the ExpressLanes are doing.

A few highlights from the new Metro report:

•In April, the average speed in the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway was 64 mph during the weekday morning peak commute between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. The average speed in the ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway was 65 mph.

•In April, the average speed of the general lanes on the 110 was 48.3 mph during the same morning peak commute. In April 2012 before the ExpressLanes opened, the average speed was 48.4 mph. The average speed of the general lanes on the 10 freeway was 51.6 mph between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.; the average speed for the general lanes before the ExpressLanes opened is still being evaluated.

•Average work week trips were 57,256 on the 110 ExpressLanes in late April, exceeding the average volume of about 54,000 trips before the ExpressLanes opened. On the 10, the average work week trips were 24,613 at the end of April. That’s 88 percent below the pre-opening average volume of 28,000 but Metro expects the number of trips in the ExpressLanes to continue rising and exceed the pre-opening volumes sometime later this year.

•On the 110, 59 percent of those using the ExpressLanes are carpoolers and 41 percent are solo drivers. On the 10, users are 57 percent carpoolers and 43 percent solo drivers.

•There were 152,787 FasTrak transponders issued through the end of April.  As of June, the number has grown to 180,901. Some of those transponders are being used in multiple vehicles.

•Account holders by house income bracket are evenly distributed: 8.5 percent make less than $35,000, 19.9 percent make $35,000 to $49,000, 35.6 percent make $50,000 to $74,999, 21.3 percent make $75,000 to $99,000, 12.2 percent make $100,000 to $149,999 and 2.4 percent make over $150,000. In other words, it’s pretty much a bell curve and suggests the notion that the ExpressLanes are “Lexus Lanes” — i.e. only used by those with very high incomes — is not correct.

•Transit ridership on the bus routes using the 110 freeway was 14,137 boardings in April 2013. In April 2012– it was 12,920. In addition, there have been 58 new vanpools formed to use both corridors.

For those interested in getting a transponder in order to use the ExpressLanes, please click here. Through Labor Day, tolls during non-peak hours have been lowered to as low as 15 cents per mile, 10 cents lower than the usual base toll of 25 cents per mile.

Any thoughts on the ExpressLanes, Source readers? Please feel free to comment — and please keep comments brief and to the point so that other readers will actually read them!

Long Beach asks to have Blue Line’s Transit Mall station renamed

Long Beach Transit Mall station renaming report

Nothing earth-shaking here folks, but I know that station renaming is always of moderate to high interest to Source readers. Above is the staff report on the proposal to rename the Blue Line’s Transit Mall station “Downtown Long Beach,” a move that Metro Board Member Don Knabe said he supported at yesterday’s committee meetings.

Supervisor Knabe also offered a motion — which was approved — at yesterday’s Executive Management Committee to have the full Board consider the renaming at next Thursday’s Board meeting.

Metro Responds to BHUSD Consultant Memo on Century City Station Location

Today Metro  released its review of a Beverly Hills Unified School District consultant memo that challenged the agency’s geotechnical rationale  for choosing the Constellation site for the Purple Line Extension ‘s Century City station.

The review, sent to Metro’s Board of Directors today, essentially says that nothing in the consultant memo changes the agency’s recommendations.

July 9 Update: Metro has revised its review with additional details.  The updated version of this Board report is below with additions in bold.

Read the report below.

Metro Response to BHUSD Consultant Memo (update)

Metro releases latest Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor map

13-2009_map_Project_CrenshawLAX_May13.inddThe Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project team today released the latest project map of the 8.5-mile rail line, which includes official names of the eight new stations: Expo/Crenshaw, Crenshaw/Martin Luther King, Crenshaw/Vernon (Leimert Park), Crenshaw/Slauson, Florence/West, Florence/La Brea, Florence/Hindry and Aviation/Century.  The Crenshaw/LAX line will serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Inglewood, Westchester and the LAX area. It will offer an alternative transportation option to congested roadways and provide significant environmental benefits, economic development and employment opportunities. The Crenshaw/LAX project is one of 12 transit projects funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The map is available at metro.net.

Metro, Caltrans to Hold Public Meetings on High Desert Corridor (HDC) Project

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Here’s the press release from Metro:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and Caltrans is holding a series of four public meetings to provide information and seek comment on a proposed new transportation corridor linking Palmdale and Victorville.

The project, called High Desert Corridor (HDC), is a 63-mile-long proposal that may include a highway, energy production and/or transmission facilities for green energy, a bikeway and a high speed rail feeder service line connecting State Route 14 in Los AngelesCounty and State Route 18 in San BernardinoCounty.

“The High Desert Corridor project aims to improve mobility and access for people and goods in the rapidly growing Antelope, Victor and Apple Valleys,” said Doug Failing, Metro’s executive director of highway project delivery. “The focus of the meetings is to provide a project update, share highlights of key findings from the Rail Alternative Analysis, review the refined Purpose and Need statement for the project and discuss next steps in the process,” he added.

Schedule of meetings:

Monday, July 15, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the LakeLos AngelesElementary School, 16310 E. Avenue Q, Palmdale, Calif., 93591

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the Stater Bros. Stadium, Mavericks Conference Room, 12000 Stadium Way, Adelanto, Calif., 92301.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the EndeavourSchool of Exploration, 12403 Ridgecrest Rd., Victorville, Calif., 92395.

Monday, July 22, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center, Joshua Room, 38350 Sierra Hwy., Palmdale, Calif., 93350.

The meetings on July 17 and July 22 will be webcast live at ustream.tv/channel/metro-high-desert-corridor.

Special accommodations and information in alternative formats are available to the public. All requests for reasonable accommodations must be made three working days (72) hours in advance of the scheduled meeting date. Contact the project hotline at 888.252.7433 or call the California Relay Service at 711. Para información en español llame al 888.252.7433.

Gateway Cities Service Council to receive public comment on proposed Blue Line station renaming


If you want to have your say in the renaming of the Blue Line Transit Mall Station to the Downtown Long Beach Station, attend the service council meeting this Thursday or write in to servicecouncils@metro.net.

Here’s the press release from Metro with more information:

The Metro Gateway Cities Service Council will receive a presentation, and accept public comment, on the potential renaming of the Blue Line ‘Transit Mall’ Station to the ‘Downtown Long Beach Station.’ The Service Council meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 11 at Salt Lake Park Community Center, located at 3401 East Florence Avenue in Huntington Park.

The City of Long Beach has requested the new station name following a community survey they conducted. Metro’s station naming policy includes a procedure for seeking community input on station names, and requires that any changes to an existing station name be authorized by a two-thirds vote of Metro’s Board of Directors. Metro’s Board will be presented with this request for information purposes only later this month.  They could act on the request as soon as their September meeting.

Jon Hillmer, Director of Metro’s Regional Service Councils, is hopeful that the public will attend and participate in this meeting. “We are always appreciative of the public’s comments on Metro service and programs. The Service Councils present an excellent opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas about Metro, and we welcome the public’s involvement and thoughts about the proposed new station name. If anyone cannot attend this meeting, but would like to comment on the proposed station name, they are welcome to submit comments in writing by e-mailing to servicecouncils@metro.net.”

The Metro Gateway Cities Service Council is one of five Metro Service Councils representing different regions of Los Angeles County. The other four Service Councils represent the regions of: San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, South Bay, and Westside/Central.

Metro Service Councils review and take action on staff recommendations for service modifications, receive public input on Metro bus and rail service, conduct public hearings, evaluate Metro bus programs, and make policy recommendations to the Metro Board about service in the area they represent. For more information about Metro’s Service Councils, visit their website http://www.metro.net/about/local-service-councils/.

FTA issues letter saying Metro has addressed Civil Rights issues

As some readers may recall, the Federal Transit Administration in Dec. 2011 found that Metro did not fully follow federal regulations and guidance about the process the agency used to make service changes. At the time, Metro released a compliance plan to correct the problems.

And today the FTA found Metro was in compliance. Here is the description from Metro staff:

The Acting Director of the Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transit Administration, issued a letter today stating that Metro has “satisfactorily addressed all of the deficiencies identified in the September 2011 Compliance Review; therefore the Compliance Review is closed.”

Since December 2011, Metro has worked closely with the FTA after a Title VI Compliance Review conducted in July 2011 found Metro deficient in five, out of the twelve, areas that were reviewed.

As of January 2013, four of the five areas were resolved to the satisfaction of the FTA – the remaining area being the evaluation of service changes.

The June 27, 2013 letter closes out this remaining issue with the FTA concurring with Metro’s analysis that the service changes implemented between 2009 and 2011 did not reveal disparate impacts to minority populations. The FTA also specifically acknowledges Metro’s Civil Rights and Planning staff for their assistance in resolving this matter.

Ultimately,  Metro is pleased to finalize this review process and remains committed to ensuring that it will maintain compliance with all provisions of the FTA’s Title VI requirements.

The Civil Rights Compliance Department is now working on the Title VI Program Update, which must be submitted to the FTA by October 1, 2013.  The Update will report on Metro’s Title VI compliance for the past three years and will require Board approval at the September 2013 Board Meeting.

Other actions taken by the Board today

The meeting is ongoing. I'll have a post later on the Crenshaw/LAX Line project contract, project acceleration and associated financial issues.

•The Board approved Metro's contribution of $52.7 million toward Metrolink operations for the 2013-14 fiscal year in addition to funds for a variety of other Metrolink projects. Metrolink is funded with contributions from five county transportation agencies — Metro in Los Angeles County as well as Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

•The Board approved a motion by Richard Katz to have Metro CEO Art Leahy and Metro staff to study, hold hearings and determine whether the state Congestion Management Plan is still an “appropriate, useful and consistent tool aligned with our state and regional objectives.”

The motion means that the Congestion Management Fee studied and proposed by Metro staff on new developments in the county likely won't be considered by the Board until next year. The fee has been discussed for a decade.

•The Board approved a 10-year lease for a Purple Line Extension customer service center in 2,469-feet of retail space at 3183 Wilshire Boulevard.

•The Board approved a motion asking Metro staff to report on how Metro may be able to contribute up to $2 million each year to CicLAvia-type events throughout L.A. County. The motion cites the success of the events in the city of L.A. over the past couple of years.